I have been working like crazy this weekend to get a home tour up for you guys, so look for that soon! This post will be a little sneak peek of some of those pics. As I was going through and editing pictures, I did a lot of thinking about all the things I love about our house, as well as some of the stuff we might have done differently if we were to start over.
If you know me in real life, or have read the About page, you know that our house is pretty much brand spankin’ new. The layout and design was pretty much the brain child of Kreig, my Dad, and me. It is so exciting to have so much control over everything, but at the same time it can be overwhelming. I lied awake many nights picturing the finished product and stressing over what might not be perfect. I remember right before the walls were built stressing about placement and size of windows, and second guessing myself a million times. I remember Aunt Mary very frankly telling me that I just needed to let go the idea of perfection, because no matter how much you plan everything and try to think things out, there will always be something you wish you did differently. Mame, you were right… it would have been impossible to get everything perfect, and we didn’t. With that said I think a lot of my calculating and stressing led to great decisions that I am so glad I made. So I guess you just have to plan for what you can, but always know that perfect doesn’t exist.
I thought it would be fun to do a couple posts about what we’re glad we did, and what we would change if we could travel back in time.
So let’s start with the things we did right and I LOVE about our house. Tomorrow I’ll let you know some of the things we might do differently if we were to start all over again.
General floorplan/engineering decisions:
- We walked through a ton of modulars before we even decided for sure to build. It helped us decide what general floor plans we liked, and what we didn’t. When we drew our floor plan, I started with one of a modular home that we liked and changed things here and there to fit our needs and taste.
- We cantilevered 5′ off the front of our house to give us additional square footage. We built on top of an existing foundation, which was 54’6″ x 23′. 23′ is pretty narrow, so adding the 5′ gave us space that I can’t imagine not having. Our floor plan simply wouldn’t have worked without it.
- I love our open floor plan. It makes everything feel bigger, and is great for entertaining. What I didn’t expect, though, is it’s great for when it’s just the two of us as well. I kind of worried that it might be annoying to have the kitchen open to the living room. Like I would be clanging pans while Kreig was trying to watch tv, but this is never an issue. It is actually the opposite… I think it allows us to kind of do our own thing more, yet still feel like we’re spending time together. I can be baking something in the kitchen while Kreig is in the living room and we can still have a conversation and be together. These feelings might change once we have kids, but so far I love the openness.
- For a hot second, we thought about putting the master suite on one end of the house, the living areas in the middle, and the two spare rooms on the other end. Instead we have all the bedrooms on one end, and the living space on the other. We actually came to the decision thinking about future babies (no, Mom I’m not pregnant). I didn’t like the idea of walking across the house to get a crying baby. And being the worrier that I am, of course I imagined an emergency in the middle of the night and not being able to get to a little one in time. I know I’m crazy for even letting that stuff cross my mind… especially considering the fact that we don’t even have kids yet… but it happens. Oh, and I also thought about teenagers trying to sneak out, haha.
- We squeezed closets in everywhere we possibly could. We didn’t really have room for a pantry or broom closet, but we put them in over the basement stairs. (You can kind of see what I mean in the floor plan above. The basement stairs are L-shaped.) The floors are raised a bit to allow for head room, but it’s totally worth having them.
- Vaulted ceilings in our kitchen/dining/living room area. It just makes everything feel so much bigger.
- We have a master suite, with a bathroom and walk-in closet. I used to think that a separate master bathroom was unnecessary, especially when there’s another one close by, but I love it. Especially when we have house guests. And I can only imagine I love it even more someday when we have kids.
- Most people dream of a nice big tub in their master bathroom, but we did a tiled shower instead — no tub. I am really not a bath person (neither is Kreig), so it seemed like a big tub would be a waste. When I take a bath, I sit there for about two seconds and then start thinking of all the other things I could be doing and I immediately want to get out. Plus sitting in soapy/dirty water grosses me right out. We figured that if we ever want to take a bath, we can just use the guest bath, which has a tub/shower unit. In the past year+ that we have lived here, I’ve taken one bath. I was sick, and I sat there for about 2 minutes and then decided to shower instead.
- Instead of double sinks in our master bath, we went with one sink and a little vanity area on the other side, instead of a second sink. I wanted double sinks, but my dad pointed out that it’s really not that often that you actually need two sinks at the same time. When he said that, I thought about my Grandma’s vanity, which has a sink on one side and a little makeup vanity on the other side. I’m guessing that was your idea, Mame? I thought about this, and realized that the only thing we “fight over” is the mirror. And I always want more counter space for hair stuff and makeup, so this is perfect.
- The vessel sink is something that my dad was wary of, but we went for it and it’s one of the prettiest things in our house.
- I guess my kitchen is bigger than it really had to be. I think every square inch is worth it, though. An 8-foot island sounds ridiculous to some people, but it’s one of the best spots in our house and gets used often for cooking, eating, general seating, blogging, and homework.
- Speaking of my island, I begged and pleaded with my dad to cut the toe-kick off. What? Sounds weird, I know. Here’s the thing… I’m 4’10″. Just imagine that for a minute. Most middle school students and some elementary students are taller than me. Counter height doesn’t work for me. I like to cook and bake, and I wanted to be able to do it comfortably. My dad, and I’m pretty sure every other man involved in building this house, thought this was the most ridiculous request they ever heard. Let me first say that my dad was the most understanding and logical and problem-solverific (made that word up) person in the world through the whole process. He totally just wants to make his customers (me in this case) happy, whatever that involves. At the same time though, I think he just wanted to stop me from making a decision I would regret, or compromising the quality of the brand new cabinets. I was going to order the island cabinets without a toe-kick at all, and at the last minute my dad told me not to. He told me he could cut it off himself. Really, I think he was trying to buy some time and hope I would change my mind. But I didn’t. I remember the day that the cabinets came in. (One of the happiest days of my life! I took a picture of the Kraft-Maid truck in the road!) I am 99% sure that my dad and Ben (my cousin) were expecting me to brush it off and tell them to just put the island cabinets in as they were. But I didn’t. I stomped my feet and acted like a brat. A few tears might have been involved… real ones, not just dramatic ones. I really wanted my island to be the height that I wanted it to be. I didn’t see what the big deal was. It was going to be our forever house, so shouldn’t the kitchen be fit to the person that was going to be cooking in it? I eventually got them to see my point (I think that involved making them bend their knees and pretend to be my height) and they cut the toe-kick off my island cabinets. Angels sang. This lowered the counter from a standard 36″(ish) to 321/2″(ish). I know 3 1/2 inches doesn’t sound like much, but I would call it life-changing. You can kind of see the height difference in the pictures, but to be honest, it’s something you “feel” more than you see. I choose the island over the wall counters every time. It is perfect for me, and it doesn’t even bother normal-sized people. Win-win-win-win-win.
- I don’t have a lot of fancy stuff in my kitchen cabinets — not a lot of pull-out drawers or dividers, etc. However, we did kind of splurge on two of the best cabinets in the world in my island. One has two larger bins — one for garbage, one for bottles and cans. The other has two smaller bins — one for paper, and one for containers. I tried to plan for a place for everything and I tried to think of the things that were an issue in my parents’ house when I was growing up. I always hated having to go out onto their cold entryway/porch to put recyclables in the bin. I knew I wanted to plan for a space for this stuff inside, where it wouldn’t be an eyesore. The island cabinets work perfect and I love being able to just pull out the cabinet to throw stuff in there.
- I have the best kitchen sink ever. It’s this one. Super deep and huge and single basin. You can’t even tell when it’s full of dishes because it’s so deep. And it’s made of black composite granite, so it looks so cool and unique. Thanks, Aunt Marilyn, for letting me copy you.
Where we splurged and where we saved:
- Obviously, since we were 23 and 25 years old when this whole project started, we had a pretty modest budget. We had to pick and choose where to invest and where to save. We generally spent more money on the important stuff. Stuff that can’t be easily upgraded in the future.
- We had soy-based spray-foam insulation installed by Coler Natural Insulation, who also are super nice guys. It cost more than fiberglass cellulose, but it is so much more efficient and will save us money over time. Plus it makes me feel good to pretend I’m green. Clog my arteries with processed food, but fill my walls with soy, please.
- We got a pellet furnace instead of an oil or propane one. The initial purchase cost more up front, but again, we will save in the long run and already appreciate the fact that we can heat our almost 1600 square-foot house in upstate NY for around $850 a year.
- We installed central air right along with our heating system. I don’t know how I ever lived a summer without it.
- Instead of getting less-expensive laminate floors, we went with real hardwoods in the main living areas and tile versus vinyl or laminate in the bathrooms and mud room. I’m so glad we did this right from the start instead of settling for something cheaper and telling ourselves we could upgrade it someday, because it would probably never happen.
- The same thing goes for our decks. We flirted with the idea of building just stairs with small landings by each of our doors, and down the road building actual porch/decks. We decided to just go with the decks we wanted from the start and last spring/summer/fall proved that to be the best decision. They get a ton of use!
- I didn’t really get a lot of built-in organizational stuff in my kitchen cabinets. Those inserts are reeeaaallly expensive, and I would have rather spent that money on more/larger cabinets. I worried that they wouldn’t be functional, but they are absolutely fine. And if I ever get the urge to add roll-out shelves, I can always buy inserts down the road.
- We got really cheap flush-mount light fixtures for most of the house. At the time, I actually liked them, but now I am upgrading them all. A lot of people would argue that we should have put what we wanted there initially, and that upgrading them is another expense and a waste of money on the initial fixtures, but I am having so much fun replacing them and DIYing my own fixtures. I simply wouldn’t have had time to do that before our house was finished, and if we bought something more expensive at the start, I probably would feel guilty about replacing them. Now, it’s fun to replace $8 fixtures with fun pendants that really work with the rooms.
Okay, if you made it through all those words, you get a gold star. I could go on for days about how much we love our house, because we really do love so much about it. I actually still can’t believe it exists and it’s all ours. Every day, I come home from work and just soak it in… life is good!
How about you? What do you love about your house?